Literature Study GuidesFor The Common Defense

For the Common Defense | Study Guide

George Marshall

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George Marshall

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At a Glance

  • In late 1945, at the close of World War II (1939–45), Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall (1880–1959) issued a report on the status of the United States Army.
  • Marshall's report concludes with a section titled For the Common Defense, in which he lays out his vision for the future security of the United States.
  • Marshall urges Congress to require "universal military training" for American males. He proposes that all young men be required to complete one year of military training.
  • Only such preparation, he argues, will enable the country to meet the challenge of the next war. In future conflicts the nation will need to quickly position effectively trained armed forces for combat.
  • Marshall frames this proposal in a larger discussion of the missions of the regular armed forces and the National Guard.
  • In support of his proposal, Marshall cites a similar request by President George Washington (1732–99) to form a trained reserve of citizen-soldiers. The Second Militia Act of 1792, which would have included Washington's recommendations, was ultimately passed without them. Washington reiterated his request in a message to Congress in December 1793.
  • Wanting to demobilize the armed forces, Congress allowed the Selective Training and Service Act to expire in 1947. By the following year, however, the Cold War—a period of tension between the United States and the Soviet Union, along with their respective allies—was heating up. The draft was reinstated in 1948.
  • More broadly, Marshall's recommendations support an increased U.S. military presence around the world.


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